Let’s keep on with our recent Luxco kick with another future classic: The Rebel Yell Small Batch Reserve Bourbon, because if it’s “Reserve”, it has to be good. Right?
Distilled by “Rebel Yell Distillery, Louisville, KY” (The Internet Which Knowest All Things says this is probably Heaven Hill), the bottle contains Kentucky Straight Bourbon bottled in “small batches” from a wheat-flavored mash bill at 45.3% ABV. Luxco compatriot David Nicholson 1843 is also a wheater. Long a resident of the Bottom Shelf Club, Rebel Yell is a favorite of everyone from the college-guy-sent-to-the-liquor-store-with-a-fistful-of-fives-to-get-booze to the hobo-on-the-corner-with-enough-class-to-not-be-drinking-vodka. It’s hard to argue with $13 a fifth, until you taste it, anyway. So why not fork over an extra Hamilton (that’s a $10 bill, for my readers from outside the United States, and some inside. Public school system!) for the same thing with a black label with “Reserve” on it?
Nose: Shy, with very faint tropical fruits (kiwi, guava) and “fruit punch” bubble gum. Very light, otherwise, with few of the common bourbon characteristics.
Palate: Thin body. Bubble gum again, with rich coconut. Followed by stale chocolate nibs, hazelnut, and dusty spice cabinet (like cinnamon so old it’s lost the taste of cinnamon).
Finish: Short. Some oaky tannins, a hint of charcoal, faint vanilla, and a cloying “fake” processed corn syrup note.
With Water: Water does not noticeably change the aroma. It might bring out more bubble gum on the palate. No need for water with this one.
Overall: Disappointing from start to finish. Reminds me of McAfee’s Benchmark No. 8, Basil Hayden, and Winchester Straight Bourbon, all made at different distilleries, but a common thread is a sickening corn syrup candy note and an overwhelming tutti-frutti bubble gum character. I far preferred the Luxco brand’s David Nicholson 1843, also a wheater and only $5 more. If you thought adding “Small Batch Reserve” and $10 to the price of Rebel Yell would make it a competitive bourbon, you’d be wrong.